Sophat, 26, moved from her home province to Cambodia’s capital city four years ago and has been working in construction ever since. In the last year she has taken her skills to the next level, becoming a peer leader who spends her free time educating other workers. Sophat’s story is one of a successful leader who is helping make her workplace safer. However, the situation is different for many of the tens of thousands of women employed in the construction sector.
Sophat and her husband, Phearum, work in the same construction site in Phnom Penh. They have they have a 5 year old boy who lives in Svay Rieng with his grandmother. Together they send money they earn home for their young son, as they want him to get a good education. It is hard being away from him, but Sophat and Phearum work hard because they want to save money to invest in land for their son’s future. They make an effort to call him every couple of days.
As a peer leader, Sophat teaches other construction workers about the importance of safety in the workplace as well as subjects that may impact their lives such as responsible alcohol consumption. She has now shared information with over 200 other construction workers in Phnom Penh.
This opportunity has been an important step in Sophat’s personal development. Sophat says she became a peer leader because she thought that the information she learnt was important and that she should share it with other construction workers. “I joined because I wanted to learn about safety. Now I know that when I need to climb high I should wear gloves, boots and a belt.” Sophat has been successful in encouraging others to insist on good occupational health and safety at work.
Phearum has been very supportive of Sophak’s new responsibilities. He acknowledges that she is playing an important role and is proud of what she is doing. “I am happy that my wife is a peer leader because she is able to meet a lot of people and teach them about safety,” he shares.
Unfortunately, not all husbands are as supportive as Phearum. He says that many don’t want their wives to become peer leaders. “Husbands don’t like it when their wives are peer leaders because they are away from the house and can’t do housework.” Another peer leader Sophat knew had to stop her work because her husband did not approve of her being away so often.
Instead of trying to have his wife conform to gender stereotypes which confine her to the home, Phearum does not mind sharing household chores so that Sophak can take advantage of the training opportunities offered by CARE. “He is better than me at cooking anyway,” Sophat laughingly admits.
CARE works in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to ensure safe and secure work environments for women in Cambodia's construction industry with the financial support of the European Union and the Austrian Development Cooperation.